Nest Egg: Changing your footwear to see the other side

Now that I’ve got older there’s no doubt that some things seem a little bit easier to figure out.

We all would have heard the saying that you cannot put an old head on young shoulders, and of course that’s true.

Albert Einstein is attributed with the wise words which say, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

With age comes wisdom and I’ve definitely become a better listener as I’ve got older. When I was younger, I talked first, to impart whatever facts I knew on a particular subject before I would listen.

My teenage son does the same now, so I can see it’s probably an immaturity thing. Some people probably never mature from it though and learn how to use their two ears to their full extent.

Our business of financial planning must always start with listening so myself and my colleagues in our office always have to start by asking questions and then putting your financial picture together.

There’s little point in one of us speaking for half an hour when we meet you for the first time about what the perfect client would look like, or lecturing you on how much you should save etc.

I’ve had a few experiences where it became obvious very quickly that the best thing that I could do in that moment was listen and put myself in the other person’s shoes (i.e., change my footwear!).

My oldest client is in her early 90’s and still as sharp as a pin mentally. She was introduced to me by another financial advisor who had looked after her financials for years, but he was leaving the industry.

The first time I met her for the handover, I wanted to rearrange some of her policies and investments to lower her fees and get her a better overall plan.

To me, this was where I could add value right away if she just completed a few forms. Completing forms was the last thing she wanted to do.

All she wanted to know was if the life companies and banks where she had her deposits were safe and secure. Investment returns were the last thing on her mind which was alien to me. I simply put myself in her shoes and listened to the things that were important to her about money.

Another situation where I ‘changed my footwear’ was when I was speaking to about 60 people at a conference to professionals from the same industry.

The topic that I had been asked to speak about seemed to mildly capture their industry as I worked through the slides behind me on the big screen.

I could see by their body language that the subject topic wasn’t keeping them on the edge of their seat (buying property through your pension may not actually be that exciting after all!), so I flew through the remaining slides quickly and then changed the subject.

I opened the floor to questions and said they could ask me anything they wanted about the things that mattered to them financially. I put myself in their shoes and asked them what their challenges were in their day-to-day businesses and what their issues were that they would like solved.

Apart from making debt disappear, I said there could be some very easy solutions that they didn’t have the time to explore. The session immediately came to life, and we ran way over time on discussing everything that mattered to them financially, not what I wanted to talk about.

In conflict resolution courses they teach you to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, to see their point of view. I listened to a podcast recently and the speaker said when she was growing up in the US that her mother and father over dinner would get one of the children to introduce a topic to give their opinion on.

Then when each person sitting around the table was finished with their viewpoint, they would be asked to completely flip sides and put forward the opposite view as if that was their own view.

Negotiators and peace brokers do this for a living where they look at the world from both sides to try get a resolution when there is an impasse and no breakthrough in sight. They say there is a reason that we have two ears and one mouth, suggesting that we should listen twice as much as we speak.

There are no doubt clues to be picked up when listening to the other person speak but these clues will be missed if we are only waiting for them to finish so we can jump in to give our opinion.

Try it the next time when you are having a clash of opinions with someone, or you are doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different outcome. Why not gamble with a different approach?

For more financial advice and planning speak to Conor and the team and Tara Financial -